Cato Institute

"Productivity Collapse" . . . Massive Education Spending Fails Report, But They Want Still More!

We owe our friend Norm Leahy at Tertium Quids a big Hat Tip (here) for bringing this to our attention. It hit us like a hammer over the head last week while putting together the most recent News Stand, where a couple of articles coalesced to drive the point home. The first paragraph has our preliminary commentary on the subject — the relation of government education spending and (lack of) student achievement.  As an April 29 article in the Wall Street Journal on a report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress confirms (here), despite trillions of dollars taxed away from private income at the local, state and federal levels since 1971, standardized test scores for 17-year-olds have improved by exactly three points: by one in English and by two in math. If a three point improvement over nearly 40 years and trillions of dollars of your money doesn't infuriate you, we could elaborate. But Andrew Coulson of The Cato Institute does it better than anyone else. As he posted at Cato's blog (here), and quoted by Leahy at TQ, it's simply a productivity collapse — twice the money for the same results:

"How serious of a collapse is it? Total k-12 expenditures in this country were about $630 billion two years ago (see Table 25, Digest of Ed Statistics 2008). The efficiency of our education system is less than half what it was in 1971 (i.e., we spend more than twice as much to get the same results — see Table 181, same source).

So if we'd managed to ensure that education productivity just stagnated, we'd be saving over $300 billion EVERY YEAR. If we'd actually seen productivity improvements in education such as we've seen in other fields, we'd be saving at least that much money and enjoying higher student achievement at the same time.

My guess is that most people would consider saving $3 trillion per decade and more fully realizing children's intellectual potential are both very important."

Prophetically, Leahy adds:

The knee-jerk response will be to throw even more money at the problem, hoping that somehow, an extra dollop of cash will change everything.

Exactly! On the heels of the report, we have this from the April 29 Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Virginia is in talks with Maryland and Washington about seeking part of an additional $5 billion in stimulus money that will be awarded to states most aggressively trying to improve student achievement.

On what basis is there proof that anything they do with that money will work? When is enough, enough? Certainly not another $5 billion, right?  Solution? Reforms so often blocked by the educationists and unions, such as more charter schools, more choice, more competition. But there's no need to reform when trillions for nothing come your way.

This wasted national treasure reminds me of the refrain of naive liberals about all the money "wasted" on defense spending: "Imagine all the good that could be done with that money instead of building bombs." Never mind that the military constantly improves efficiency and protects our country.

But . . . when it comes to governments, at any level, taxing our hard-earned income and spending it on an education system that has progressed by virtually nothing, it makes us think: Imagine all the good that could have been done with that money if left in the hands of parents to find better ways to educate their children.

Lobby Day Review: Big Numbers Of Values Voters Show Up At The Capitol Today!

This was a strange one: Lobby Day and I had nary a thing to do with it. My first two sessions, 2006 and 2007, I was knee deep in planning and executing the event. Last year, not so much. This year, virtually nada. That's what happens when you're trying to put coalitions together in support of various bills. Somebody had to mind the store and work on our legislative initiatives, research and make lawmaker contacts. Still, it's pretty impressive to see more than 250 people, with yellow "I Vote Values" stickers enter Mr. Jefferson's capitol. More people than last year, even. Who said values voters no longer matter? Here's how the day went:

More than 250 people from around the commonwealth met in the capital city today to support traditional values in Virginia this legislative season.  They were energized by elected officials such as Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Centerville), and Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence), who spoke of the opportunities that currently exist to promote fundamental rights, such as chaplains being allowed to pray "in Jesus name," as well as seeing to it that Planned Parenthood doesn't continue to receive taxpayer funds.

These encouraging messages were followed by keynote speaker, Jordan Lorence, Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, who affirmed the fact that by championing traditional values one also is championing the ideas believed in and sacrificed for by the constitutional framers. Attendees also heard from Adam Schaeffer (TQ Radio interview here) of the CATO Institute who addressed education freedom after also addressing the House Education Committee earlier in the morning.

After hearing from this great line up, citizens made their way to the Capitol where they observed both legislative bodies in action. While in the galleries and watching in other rooms they were introduced in the House of Delegates by Delegate Kenneth Alexander (D-89, Norfolk), who also is the new chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, and in the Senate, by Senator Jill Vogel (R-27, Winchester).

Equipped and encouraged, these hundreds of grassroots conservative activists then went in small groups and met personally with more than half of the legislators in the General Assembly. Because of their efforts to make their voices heard we know that we will see victories in this year's General Assembly, and we are thankful for their time and commitment to traditional values.

Although you may not have been able to join us today, if you are reading this, you will have another opportunity to participate in a Family Foundation Lobby Day — on February 5 we will have a Virtual Lobby Day when we use the power of the Internet to promote our message. Continue to check back here and future e-mail alerts for more details as we make staying connected to your government and elected officials as easy as logging on and clicking a mouse. It may be short session, but we have a lot planned, both in person and online to make a significant impact on our elected officials. 

Speaking of which, pay close attention to our e-mail alerts throughout the session and be prepared to call, write and e-mail your legislators to remind them that Virginia is and should remain a great place to raise a family.

Lobby Day: Less Than A Week To Get In The Game!

Legislators rolled into the capital city this week with the usual crush of agenda promoting news conferences, last minute fundraisers (they can't solicit campaign donations during session) and organizational meetings. Today, the games begins. Don't get left on the bench. Your team wants and needs you on the field!

If you have not registered for Family Foundation Day at the Capitol this Monday, January 19, please do so as soon as possible! 

Not only will you be able to meet with your elected officials to express your support for The Family Foundation's pro-family agenda, you will have the opportunity to hear from some of Virginia's strongest pro-family leaders in Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-37, Fairfax) and Delegate Bill Carrico (R-5, Independence).

Our keynote speaker is Jordan Lorence (see video here), Senior Counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund. He will address the issue of religious liberty (see video of him on this subject here) and what our rights are and how we can make a difference. 

We're also pleased to announce that we added Adam B. Schaeffer, a policy analyst with the Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom and senior fellow at the Virginia Institute for Public Policy (see Tertium Quids, here), as a Lobby Day speaker. He will address the issue of educational choice and freedom. Schaeffer is a former NRI Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and adjunct scholar at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He has commented on a range of political issues in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online and RealClearPolitics.

Listen to Adam Schaeffer in a podcast at TQ Radio, here.

This is a power packed line up you won't want to miss. But time is running out. To ensure we can reserve a meeting time with your legislator, please call to register for Family Foundation Day at the Capitol as soon as possible.

Family Foundation Day at the Capitol is free of charge, and will be held Monday, January 19 from 9:00 a.m. through the afternoon at the Richmond Marriott, 500 East Broad Street.

To register now, contact our Grassroots Coordinator John Smith at 804-343-0010 or e-mail him @ John@familyfoundation.org

The game will go on with or without you. It's your choice whether you get on the field or stay on the bench. Others, many of whom vehemently disagree with your vision for Virginia, already are playing and playing hard. However, you can make your presence known and voice heard for traditional values this year as well, and help ensure that Virginia continues to be a great place to raise a family.

Listen To This: Tertium Quids Web Radio Interview On School Choice

We've posted a fair amount recently about the charter school situation in Richmond. At first glance, it may seem as if it is a local issue, not much of a statewide concern. But as we pointed out yesterday, reform must start somewhere, and right now a crucial battle with statewide implications is starting in the capital city. The implications for Virginia's urban centers are even more pronounced: If people from all political sides agree education is key for a stable, productive life, especially for those raised in less than ideal neighborhoods, how will they ever get those opportunities if our lawmakers do not provide the alternatives and solutions to such a transparently broken system? As we announced in July, we've joined a new coalition, School Choice Virginia, headed by Delegate Chris Saxman (R-20, Staunton) to try to bring significant improvement to public education in Virginia. Another organization committed to this is Tertium Quids, which provides a lot of intellectual fire power on this and many other reform issues. Yesterday, on its blog, it announced that it will host a very informative live Internet radio interview with school choice expert Adam Schaeffer of the Cato Institute, who also is senior fellow on education reform at the Virginia Institute for Public Policy.

The interview is set for Tuesday, September 23, at 10:00 a.m. (read more here). Tertium Quids blogger-in-chief Norman Leahy will ask the questions, especially in the areas of, according to Leahy's post yesterday, "where the movement stands, what needs to happen next, and the best strategies, policies and arguments choice advocates can use to achieve success." All of which is valuable information as we see first hand the obstructionist tactics by Richmond's educrats who are trying to keep out an alternative from their monopoly despite the overwhelming support from Richmond parents and school neighbors.

The Webcast is a call in show and listener input is welcome. Interested people can also e-mail Leahy at nleahy@tertiumquids.org to have their questions asked on the air. If form holds, TQ will archive the interview for those who can't listen to it live. We hope you take the opportunity to further learn about such an important and transcendent issue.